Few cities in the world qualify as picture-perfect, but Salzburg might just do it. Lining either side of the Salzach river, its medieval Aldstadt is a wave of Baroque towers, archbishop palaces and a sprawling castle, all framed by the soaring peaks of the Eastern Alps. It's what fairytales are made of.
The city flourished from the salt trade, and was governed for centuries by wealthy prince-archbishops. Then, in the 1700s, Mozart was born, and Salzburg has been a musical mecca ever since. Today, it’s a symphony of culture, not just due to its musical roots (the Sound of Music was born here, too), but also for its art scene, excellent food and vibrant festivals.
Delve into Salzburg’s past by visiting the chambers of the Residenz, a grand Baroque complex where the city’s prince-archbishops lived. Take the funicular up to Hohensalzburg castle, which was erected by the archbishops in the 11th Century and lords over the city from its elevated position on a hilltop. Stroll down Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s main street that’s lined with smart boutiques and wrought-iron facades, and veer off down the weaving passageways to discover hidden courtyards.
You’ll probably hear classical music ringing out from churches and concert halls as you stroll through the city. Stop by at Mozart’s Residence, the house in which the great composer was born, and browse his documents, portraits and musical instruments. Musical theatre fans will love the Sound of Music tours, which take in original shooting locations from the film, including the Mirabell Gardens. Classical music lovers shouldn’t miss the city’s annual summer festival, which has been running since the twenties and has the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in residence.
Winter is magical in Salzburg. The city’s rooftops are often dusted with snow, and around Christmas there are dozens of markets selling gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and gifts. Choral singing takes place in front of the cathedral, and there are often nativity exhibits in the Residenz courtyard. Thanks to the city’s proximity to the Alps, it’s popular to head into the mountains to ski; The Ski Amadé area, Seefeld and Kitzbühel are all nearby.